Illinois v. Abbott & Assocs., Inc.,
Annotate this Case
460 U.S. 557 (1983)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Illinois v. Abbott & Assocs., Inc., 460 U.S. 557 (1983)
Illinois v. Abbott & Assocs., Inc.
Argued November 29, 1982
Decided March 29, 1983
460 U.S. 557
Section 4F(a) of the Clayton Act, enacted in 1976, provides that, whenever the Attorney General of the United States has brought an action under the federal antitrust laws and has reason to believe that any state attorney general would be entitled to bring an action under the Act based on substantially the same alleged violation, he shall give written notification to that official. Under § 4F(b), in order to assist a state attorney general in evaluating this notice or in bringing an action, the United States Attorney General, upon the state attorney general's request, must make available to him,
"to the extent permitted by law, any investigative files or other materials which are or may be relevant or material to the actual or potential cause of action"
under the Act. After the Justice Department had refused the State of Illinois' request for certain grand jury materials involved in an investigation of alleged violations of the federal antitrust laws, the Attorney General of Illinois filed a petition in Federal District Court asserting a right of access to such materials, and contending that § 4F(b) made it unnecessary for him to meet the "particularized need" standard required under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e). The District Court denied the petition, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: Section 4F(b) does not give the state attorney general a special right of access to grand jury materials that is independent of or modifies the limitations imposed by Rule 6(e). Pp. 460 U. S. 565-573.
(a) Rule 6(e) establishes a "General Rule of Secrecy" by providing that grand jury transcripts shall remain in the custody of the attorney for the Federal Government "unless otherwise ordered by the court in a particular case." One seeking disclosure under Rule 6(e) is normally required to make a showing of a "particularized need" in order to obtain access to grand jury materials. Under that Rule, a state attorney general cannot obtain access to federal grand jury proceedings without federal court approval, and such approval cannot be obtained merely by alleging that the materials are relevant to an actual or potential civil antitrust action. Accordingly, it follows from the language of § 4F(b) mandating disclosure of investigative files and other materials only "to
the extent permitted by law," that the Illinois Attorney General is not entitled to the disclosure sought in this case. Pp. 460 U. S. 565-568.
(b) Section 4F(b)'s legislative history supports the conclusion that Congress intended the section to recognize the "General Rule of Secrecy," and did not intend to change applicable law concerning grand jury materials. Pp. 460 U. S. 568-571.
(c) The Act's general goals of enhancing federal-state cooperation and encouraging more state lawsuits against price-fixers are not sufficient to show that Congress intended to change existing rules of law, absent an affirmative expression of intent to do so. Pp. 460 U. S. 572-573.
659 F.2d 800, affirmed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined., post, p. 460 U. S. 573.